Wednesday, November 17, 2010
"I" is for Isolde
The Rogue Speaks:
Here is my contribution to Alphabe-Thursday. I am still on the lookout for an artist, or composer who has led an exemplary life.
Before you get into reading this, pay attention to the music! It is from the opera, Tristan und Isolde, written by German composer, Richard Wagner (1813 - 1883). About the only thing I can say regarding Wagner's personal life is that he didn't drink to excess, or do drugs! He did frequently skip out on his debts, and he did cheat on his wife, but not before she cheated on him. He did have illegitimate children.
This particular passage from the opera, the love theme, is known to many people as Wagner's musical orgasm. If you listen all the way through, you will see why.
Now on to Isolde! Isolde was the daughter of a King of Ireland. In an arranged marriage, she is betrothed to King Mark of Cornwall. He was OLD, and Isolde is not happy about getting stuck with him. Her mother isn't too keen on it either, so she gives a flask of a love potion to Isolde's maid. The maid is supposed to give it to Isolde on her wedding night, hoping it will make Isolde's life at least tolerable after the marriage.
A young man, Tristan, the nephew of King Mark, is sent to escort Isolde back to Cornwall for the wedding. They sail away from Ireland, and soon the weather becomes uncomfortably hot for the passengers on board the ship. To keep everyone happy, Isolde sends one of the servants below to find some refreshing drinks for everyone. The first thing he finds, as fate would have it, is the flask of the love potion. I've yet to understand just what he was doing, rummaging through the maid's stuff to find it.
Isolde has no idea what she is doing, but she gives some to Tristan, and then takes a few sips herself. Well, you can imagine what happens next! Eternal love, of course!!
The two just can't stay away from each other, and spend the rest of the trip doing what lovers in the heat of passion do. Unfortunately, the boat ride is way too short, and they soon arrive in Cornwall.
Old uncle King Mark immediately falls in love with the beautiful Isolde. As soon as the wedding is over, King Mark and Isolde retire to the marriage bed. It would not bode well for the relationship should Mark find out that Isolde is not a virgin, so the devoted maid secretly takes Isolde's place in the arms of her new husband. Then Isolde sneaks off to be with Tristan. In the wee hours of the morning, she sneaks back into her husband's bed. Remember, Mark is pretty old, and Viagra hadn't been invented, so she was pretty safe from an early morning wrestling match.
Eventually, Mark finds out about the two lovers, and boy, was he pissed! He forgives Isolde, but not his nephew. It is off into exile for poor Tristan.
Tristan tries to forget about his heartache by joining King Arthur in Camelot. Eventually he makes quite a name for himself in Arthur's court. Subsequently, Tristan is sent on a quest, and while travelling through Brittany, he meets Iseult of Brittany. He fixates on her because of her name. King Arthur arranges the wedding, and so the two marry. Because he is still so desperately in love with Isolde, Tristan doesn't consummate the marriage, and it ends up being a "name only" deal.
Tristan becomes horribly ill. I suspect it was probably salmonella, or maybe e-coli, because there was not refrigeration in those days, and no antibacterial soap. In any case, he is pretty sick!
Tristan, fever raging, sends for Isolde in the hope that she will be able to cure him. This really annoys Iseult, his wife. She thought that eventually he would get over Isolde and they could start having children.
If Isolde, Queen of Cornwall, agrees to come to Tristan's aid, it was decided that the sails on the ship would be white. If she decides to blow him off, then the sails would be black.
Iseult stands at the window, looking for the ship. She is insanely jealous, and resents the fact that Tristan is calling out to another woman on his deathbed. Suddenly she sees the ship and its billowing WHITE sails.
"So sorry, Tristan," she says, "The sails are BLACK. No white sails for you!"
Poor Tristan! He is so overcome with grief, that he just rolls over and dies. When Isolde shows up and finds him dead, she is so broken-hearted that she just drops dead as well.
As most good romantic tales go, the two were buried side by side. From Tristan's grave, there grew a vine, and from Isolde's, a rose, naturally! The two plants became intertwined forever.
Now that you know the story, please listen to the music again. If you didn't get it before, you surely will now.